“Providing Dorman Scholars with unique educational opportunities has always been our mission,” noted Professor Louis Hamilton, dean of NJIT’s Albert Dorman Honors College (ADHC). “And the scholars we admit to the college are highly capable and motivated young people who crave challenges and hands-on learning experiences.”
With this in mind, the Honors College has launched a new program, aimed at not only nurturing Dorman Scholars while they’re at the university, but also promoting even stronger outcomes for them after they graduate — and it’s elevating faculty in the process. The Honors Faculty Fellows Program packages distinctive coursework with diverse experiences by connecting NJIT students and faculty with leading corporations and governmental agencies as well as private donors. The latter provides support for “boutique” classes, which will be taught by distinguished NJIT professors.
Honors Faculty Fellows will begin this fall semester with Michel Boufadel, professor of civil engineering and director of NJIT’s Center for Natural Resources Development and Protection, teaching “Water Quality in Drinking Water and Natural Systems: Assessment and Mitigation.” The project-based course, conducted with collaborating partner Langan Engineering and Environmental Services as well the Newark Water and Sewer Department, will examine the physical processes underlying contamination and potential remediation in natural and constructed systems.
Slated for the spring semester are courses led by Honors College alumnus Vatsal Shah ’08, ’09, ’15, adjunct professor in the university’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Vivek Kumar, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at NJIT. Shah, also an industry practitioner, will be supported by his employer, Mott MacDonald. Kumar will serve as an Early Career Faculty Fellow thanks to the generosity of Dhiraj Shah, who graduated from ADHC and NJIT in 2000 and is founder and CEO of Avaap, among the largest providers of information technology services and solutions for electronic health records.
The goal over the next couple of years is for the program to offer five courses per semester, which Hamilton says “will allow for a healthy ecosystem of course opportunities for scholars and faculty and allow us to test how well the program is working. We will track the scholars who take these courses and see how their outcomes differ from their peers.” He expects that ultimately there will be multiple Faculty Fellows in all of NJIT’s colleges.
Here, Hamilton discusses Honors Faculty Fellows’ origin and operation.
HOW IT CAME ABOUT
“When we’ve discussed honors education, my faculty colleagues have been invariably eager to provide those opportunities, but often they and their departments need additional resources to enable them to innovate and create more ‘boutique’ courses. In July 2017, we began a conversation in the Honors College and across campus as to how best to achieve such course opportunities. We had conversations with the president, provost, the other deans, chairs and faculty members, and universally there was a desire to provide more of these great courses, if only we could connect to the resources. The concept was fleshed out in extensive and creative conversations. … A gift from Langan Engineering in the fall of 2017 really energized the process, and by the spring of 2018 we were fully underway fundraising around for Faculty Fellows.”
HOW IT’S STRUCTURED
“For faculty members, it is a one-year, renewable appointment. The faculty member commits to creating an Honors course in conversation with the Honors College and their chair. They are also invited to give one of our colloquia to the Honors College on a topic related to their course and research. The generosity of our donors provides the course with a budget so that professors can purchase equipment, bring in guest lecturers or allow the students to conduct site visits, etc. … The scholars who enroll in the course get a unique experience, a small class, purpose-built for their interests that connects them to industry leaders and real-world projects.”
HOW FACULTY ARE SELECTED
“The selection of faculty varies depending on the area of the gift. Langan Engineering and Mott MacDonald are engaged in civil and environmental engineering projects, and so once we understood their areas, we engaged in a discussion with the chair of civil and environmental engineering, Professor Taha Marhaba, to see if specific individuals might be a good fit. When the gift is more flexible, as with the gift from Dhiraj Shah, the Honors College thinks strategically about our areas of growth and biomedical engineering is one such area. Since Dhiraj is himself a successful entrepreneur, Dr. Kumar’s class is particularly apt.”
WHY IT’S BEING IMPLEMENTED AT THIS TIME
“The college is now 25 years old and has been recognized as one of the top public university honors colleges in the nation. ... Institutions of higher education need to innovate to continue to lead, as with any knowledge-based field, and we want to continue to be leaders in honors education. This is an innovative program that will only further distinguish our scholars by providing them with unique, hands-on learning opportunities.”